A Guide for the Submission of an Interdisciplinary Proposal to the Special Programs Committee

It is our belief that the Interdisciplinary Major Program is a special phenomenon within Amherst College which allows a student to go beyond the traditional bounds of any one department and create a new “department.” This department is to be constructed from the existing disciplines within the College and should not strive to establish a program out of touch with the spirit and history of a liberal arts education at Amherst. In keeping with the notion that the proposal will establish a new department, and that the program should be something “special,” the scholarship represented by a student’s proposal is expected to equal or exceed that of a traditional major.

In order to complete a folder for an applicant to the Special Programs Committee, and before a review and decision on that program can take place, the following information and documents must be submitted to either the Program Chair or the Dean of Students.

Proposal Because of the structure of an Interdisciplinary Major, the thesis becomes the most important element of that program. For this reason, the proposal should include: the motivation for pursuing this program, a justification that the thesis and program require the framework of an interdisciplinary department and cannot fit within an existing department, and an outline and discussion of the anticipated contents of the thesis in sufficient detail to make clear the more important tenets, assumptions, and goals of the thesis. The proposal should avoid jargon and obscure language wherever possible. It must be typewritten.

Courses Because of the departmental nature of an Interdisciplinary Major, a student is charged with the responsibility for designing the required course load for that major. These courses should number at least six and should not include introductory level courses. The proposal submitted to the Committee must include a discussion of the appropriateness of these courses for the new department. A case should be made that they fit together in a coherent manner and serve as the educational basis for the writing of the thesis.

Principal Advisor The Interdisciplinary Major requires three members of the faculty to serve in the new department. One of these must be designated the Principal Advisor. This member must submit a written statement that he or she reviewed the student’s written proposal, finds that it is truly interdisciplinary, and agrees that the courses selected by the student form a solid foundation on which to base the interdisciplinary program.

Other Advisors A written statement by the other two advisors indicating that they have discussed the student’s program and are willing to serve as advisors to the program is very useful but not mandatory.

Submission Under ordinary circumstances, the proposal will be submitted during the first semester of the junior year and not under any circumstances later than the eighth week of the second junior semester.

Without the information contained in the preceding paragraphs, your applicant’s folder is incomplete, making it difficult or impossible for the Special Programs Committee to review a proposal. After the completion of the folder, a meeting of the committee will be scheduled to review the application and in some cases to interview the student. The applicant may be required to appear before the committee for this review. He or she should be prepared to discuss all aspects of the interdisciplinary “department” and the details of the thesis. Special emphasis will be placed on the feasibility of the course of study and thesis topic.